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The Mac revolutions

Karen Haslam | July 14, 2016
From the Macintosh 128k to the iMac and the MacBook Air

The Mac: sparking revolutions

The original 128k Macintosh wasn't the only Mac to cause a revolution in the world of computing. The iMac when it introduced in 1998 - the all-in-one with the translucent blue plastic shell - caused shockwaves in the industry and became a design icon. It is also credited with saving Apple from its death spiral (although Steve Jobs, who'd returned to the company a year previously also takes much of the credit for that). 

When the original iMac shipped in August 1998 it offered a 233HMz PowerPC G3 processor, 32MB RAM, 4GB hard drive, and a 15-inch monitor. The biggest impact was probably the fact that it wasn't beige, like every other PC of the day; instead the first iMac was made of Bondi blue-coloured translucent plastic.

The second thing the iMac heralded was the internet. As Apple's first 'i' product, the I in iMac stood for internet and back in 1998 the internet was rapidly expanding and the first internet weblogs were beginning to appear. Apple billed the iMac as an easy way to get connected to the internet, in just two steps, according to an advertisement of the time. The iMac also introduced USB to the masses and killed the floppy drive.

Ten years later in 2008 another Mac made an impact. When Apple launched the super-slim MacBook Air in 2008 it was the world's thinnest laptop. Following the launch the industry turned its attention from building netbooks (small, cheap but lacking power) to following Apple's lead and building what became known as 'ultrabook' style computers. These super-slim laptops made fewer performance sacrifices than their netbook counterparts. Netbooks are long gone now, killed by the introduction of tablets such as the iPad.

What next for the Mac

Nowadays, Apple's focus is on getting the maximum power from the minimum energy use, and because Apple makes both the hardware and the software it is in a good position to do this. A quick look at the innovations in the latest version of the Mac operating system, Mavericks, demonstrates perfectly the way Apple can take the new technologies offered by the latest Intel processors and maximise the way they are utilised by OS X. In the Windows world the software manufactures aim to utilise features offered by the various PC hardware manufacturers, and vice versa, but they don't have the benefit of being under one roof, as is the case over at Apple's campus.

Perhaps this is one reason why Mac sales are still on the increase today, while in the PC world sales are in the decline. This is partly due to the success of the iPhone and the Apple Stores. Many new users are coming to the Mac platform from iOS and as a result various elements of iOS are coming to the Mac operating system. Whether the two eventually merge remains to be seen, the iPad has already replaced the PC for some, but for many the extra power and the necessary applications offered by a Mac are irreplaceable.


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